Voices of Youth Indigenous Leaders

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Centennial flame, Ottawa

Hon. Brian Francis: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise today during National Indigenous History Month to pay tribute to the participants of Voices of Youth Indigenous Leaders — an event hosted by the Indigenous Peoples Committee, with support from the Senate Communications Directorate.

Each year, Voices of Youth Indigenous Leaders provides participants — who represent the history, heritage and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples — with a unique opportunity to learn more about the role of the Senate. More importantly, the event provides us with a chance to learn from them.

In line with the theme of this year’s event, which is education in all of its forms, Indigenous people aged 18 to 35 were invited to share their knowledge, experiences and perspectives a few months ago. Out of the more than 100 written submissions received, eight young people were invited to travel from their communities across Turtle Island to meet face to face with senators in Ottawa this week.

Yesterday morning, participants had the honour of meeting Governor General Mary Simon and her husband, Whit Fraser, at Rideau Hall, and in the evening attended a welcome reception in the Senate.

Earlier today, four participants testified at the Committee on Indigenous Peoples. The remaining four participants will appear later tonight. I hope all senators take the time to listen, learn and support these remarkable young leaders.

I want to now introduce you to two of the participants in more detail.

Audrey-Lise Rock-Hervieux hails from the Innu community of Pessamit, Quebec. She is the creator of the blog “Maman Autochtone.” She also works for Puamun Meshkenu, a non-profit organization that supports Indigenous youth, and for Terre Innue, a film production company. Audrey-Lise hopes to use her voice to empower Indigenous youth to make their dreams come true.

Muin Ji’j, or Bertram Bernard, is a Mi’kmaq business researcher and professional from Eskasoni First Nation. He completed a Master of Business Administration at Cape Breton University, where he focused his research thesis on improving the socio-economic well-being of Indigenous people in Canada. More recently, Muin Ji’j was accepted into the Harvard Business School’s Leading People and Investing to Build Sustainable Communities certificate program.

Honourable senators, please join me in giving Audrey-Lise, Muin Ji’j and the rest of this group a warm welcome. Let’s make their visit a memorable one. Wela’lin, thank you, tshinashkumitin.

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